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Kirkus Indie Books of the Month - December 2015

An entertaining testament to the enduring richness of “Peanuts” and the creativity it still inspires.

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz

From the Peanuts series , Vol. 1

Celebrated cartoonists interpret the look, legacy, and worldview of the “Peanuts” comic strip in this vibrant homage to its creator.

In addition to a pantheon of iconic characters, images, and pratfalls, “Peanuts,” which ran from 1950 until the day after Schulz’s death in 2000, introduced groundbreaking themes of neurosis, failure, and unfulfillable longing into postwar America’s funny pages. This splendidly illustrated comic book gathers more than 40 modern cartoonists to explore in their own panels the impacts of these materials. Some, including contributions from Matt Groening and Tom Tomorrow, are straightforward tributes; others are single- or multipaged strips that tell complete stories using the “Peanuts” characters. Among the most amusing are Roger Langridge’s vignette of the Red Baron taking time out from World War I to get psychoanalyzed for his recurring apparent hallucinations of a flying beagle; Stan Sakai and Julie Fuji’s joyous account of Charlie Brown’s Tokyo outing with a Japanese girl; Terry Moore’s drolly deflating take on what would happen if Charlie Brown finally managed to make contact with the football; Zac Gorman’s hangdog scene of Lucy critiquing Charlie Brown’s dejected funeral oration; Jeremy Sorese’s probing meditation on the missing adults of “Peanuts,” grown from evocative recollections of his own childhood; Shaenon K. Garrity’s hilarious tale of a collective nervous breakdown precipitated by Lucy’s remorseless truth-telling; and a Lovecraft-ian epic by Evan Dorkin and Derek Charm, told through Charlie Brown’s letters to his pencil-pal—“Things here are the same. I am hated and alone”—as the ordinary quirks of the “Peanuts”-verse twist themselves into subtle, sinister portents of a demonic netherworld. Some of the cartoonists work in their own distinctive styles—from the perspectival naturalism of Chris Schweizer’s WWI tableaux to Tony Millionaire’s verminous, bug-eyed Charlie Brown and Snoopy portraits—while others imitate the Schulz-ian look. The admiration these artists feel for Schulz is palpable, as are the potency and versatility of his comic inventions. As the cartoonists take Schulz’s ideas in fresh new directions, the reader still feels that they are revealing dimensions that always existed within Schulz’s vision.

An entertaining testament to the enduring richness of “Peanuts” and the creativity it still inspires. 

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60886-714-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

Affecting yet inspiring in its positivity.

Rising From the Mire

A SHORT STORY COLLECTION

This collection of insightful, emotionally intuitive short stories by Grace succeeds in honoring the resilience of women around the world.

The female characters presented in these seven fictional stories hail from a broad range of backgrounds, yet they are united in their struggle against adversity. Their intensely private ordeals explore numerous scenarios, from a young woman’s battle against a degenerative disease to a mother’s attempt to reconnect with her daughter, who has returned from college. From deft character sketches, engaging and psychologically detailed narratives evolve. “A Sharp Mind” charts the physical deterioration of a woman with multiple sclerosis and the reactions of her family. This story in particular emphasizes the individual strength and determination of the remarkable characters found here: “I’m not a victim. I only have MS,” the narrator says. “I remember my quadriplegic uncle, immobile from a car accident. He’d been a world-class athlete. When I’d asked how he could stand being in a wheelchair he’d said, ‘Life is too sweet.’ ” Powerful and life-affirming, the narrative always captures the spirit of survival. “The Presence” is a story about a young girl being sent away to boarding school. Waving goodbye to her sisters, Sydney is bundled into the family’s Aston Martin. The ensuing journey maps the boundaries of trust between a mother and daughter. “The India Affair,” a story about a woman’s journey to Mumbai with a group of doctors, examines an outsider’s understanding of another culture, along with its inequalities and injustices. The author’s descriptive skills peak here, as she offers an evocative street-level view of the city: “There’s a swarm of two-tone, yellow and green rickshaws buzzing about, the drivers perpetually honking and swooping like disturbed bees.” “Leya’s Serengeti,” the story of a mother taking care of a dog her daughter purchased on a whim, further demonstrates the author’s stylistic versatility, as elegant prose is replaced with a more urgent stream-of-consciousness approach to reflect the psychology of emotional pressure. In its entirety, the collection is a delicate and thoughtful exploration of strength in suffering.

Affecting yet inspiring in its positivity. 

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5029-8372-5

Page Count: 56

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

A lively, original take on a story of a boy with more limits—and more magic—than most.

The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman

In this YA coming-of-age novel, a disabled boy goes to live on his grandfather’s farm, meets a mysterious clan, and discovers special powers.

All Moojie wants to do is belong, but he never seems to fit in. Discovered as a foundling in a small California coastal town in 1892—with the name “Moojie” scrawled on his forehead—he’s adopted by the Littlemans. As a very small child, he can make objects fly using only his mind, among other unusual abilities. But he “didn’t talk or walk when he should have,” and “his left arm seemed only half-awake”; he needs crutches and leg braces as well, which disappoints his Papa. Moojie grows up lonely with only one friend: a deaf cat named Phineas. His warm, loving Mamma dies when he’s 8, and Papa takes the boy and his cat to his father Pappy’s place, St. Isidore’s Fainting Goat Dairy in the Valley of Sorrows. Although he’s warned against Hostiles in the surrounding wilderness, Moojie—now a teenager—glimpses a barefoot girl stealing eggs, and he’s determined to know more: “He ached for friendship, to be a valued member of something. That girl couldn’t have been alone.” He seeks out her clan; they come from far away, speak in riddles, address Moojie as “my lord,” and have much to teach him. He falls for Babylonia, the beautiful egg-stealer, and discovers within himself the ability to heal animals and people—but when trouble brews on several fronts, Moojie faces a difficult choice. Gregory’s debut novel weaves together familiar elements, such as an outcast with special powers, in unexpected ways. Moojie is endearing and sympathetic but never infantilized because of his disability. Despite the book’s many serious themes, which Gregory handles well, it also has a light touch. The author’s verbal playfulness adds to the book’s fun, as when an aunt swallows Moojie “in a pentamorous hug, her body all tentacles and suction.” The book’s mysticism is lucidly presented, and its magical realism is effective, moving, and heartening.

A lively, original take on a story of a boy with more limits—and more magic—than most.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-942545-00-2

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Mad Mystical Journey

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

Williams picks up the baton from Maya Angelou, raising her voice to decry racism and sexism in America.

Quite Happy

POEMS

In her debut chapbook of 18 timely poems, Williams (Humanities/Forsyth Technical Community Coll.) illuminates the African-American condition.

“To be black and happy in America is a fundamental paradox,” Williams says. The title’s qualified optimism thus reflects her ambivalence—celebrating black community and traditions on the one hand, condemning institutional racism on the other. “For Dubois” pinpoints poverty and a divided self as the common lot of African-Americans, while “Abandoned Aprons” shows how the place of black women is still defined by societal expectations. It’s not all outrage, though; some verses are pastoral recollections of a Southern upbringing (“mason jars / full of sweet tea”) or hymns to female solidarity (“Sister Speak”). Marriage and motherhood offer symbolic opportunities to join with ancestors in making a beautiful “tapestry” from “fraying ends.” Williams makes superb use of alliteration and sibilance to create chanting rhythms and gentle paradoxes: “unscathed but scarred…sweetly street” and “we savored your sullied beauty”—the latter expressing compassion toward Gil Scott-Heron rather than dismissing him as an addict. The book’s core is a handful of timely protest poems. The best one, “Meanwhile in America…,” contrasts inane celebrity culture (“Kimye births…While Miley twerks”) with Trayvon Martin’s wrongful death through the ironic refrain: “The system works / And Zimmerman walks.” Slant rhymes add to the sense of things being not quite right. “Diallo,” about the Guinean immigrant shot by New York City police in 1999, reminds us that police brutality is nothing new. Williams also defies opinions about the advances of the Obama administration: “Things ain’t better. / We ain’t making progress,” she insists. Likewise, “The If/Then Promise” flies in the face of sanctioned responses to violence: “I will not quote MLK….I will not seek calm.” Not quite happy, but with police or gunmen violence against African-Americans in the news seemingly every week, it’s justified. Books like Williams’ wield power to convince readers that black lives matter.

Williams picks up the baton from Maya Angelou, raising her voice to decry racism and sexism in America.

Pub Date: June 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-46944-6

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Library Partners Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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